Ageing Societies, Learning and ICT
As the share of older people increases, there is a need to improve their well-being and possibilities for integration in the knowledge society. In ageing societies, learning plays a key role in addressing challenges such as increasing social and health costs, re-skilling for employment and participation, and intergenerational sharing of experience and knowledge.
It is important to recognize older people as a heterogeneous group, in terms of self-confidence for learning, learning skills and interests, health and social connections, among others.
In general, older people's learning motivation is related to improving their everyday lives, to keeping themselves active, to sharing their knowledge with others and to connecting with other learners. ICT can help in providing new and flexible learning opportunities, which connect older people with each other and with younger generations. For older people, learning usually takes place in informal settings rather than in formal education and it is driven by their own interests and needs rather than by formal requirements.
It is important to carefully develop both the content and conditions of the learning opportunities for older people. There is evidence that older people want to learn, but meaningful and real opportunities for this desired learning are scarce at the moment. More attention needs to be paid to developing relevant and accessible learning opportunities and more user-friendly tools adapted to older people. Supporting learner-centred opportunities and personal learning skills is becoming part of lifelong learning for everybody in the knowledge society, where older people make up one group of learners and mentors, interacting and integrating with others.
The whole role of learning is changing, together with the availability of a new wave of promising ICT applications and research is needed to determine how learning can best be supported and provided in an ageing society. This article is being published in the EuroPACE publication "European Networking and Learning for the Future. The EuroPACE approach." by Annemie Boonen and WimVan Petegem (eds.), Garant, Antwerp, November 2007.